For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:8
I get a kick out of being startled by the Word of God.
Recently Philippians chapter one jumped into my attention space. I began returning to the selection fairly regularly to digest again and listen to the Spirit. This morning, I noticed the verse above and checked the meaning in the Greek of affection.
The kick was in the gut--literally as the word means bowels. Well, that's the first definition. The third statement describing connotations of the one meaning is a heart in which mercy dwells.
I tend to think of affection as a physical manifestation of tender feelings. This is, of course, the show of affection. Yet, the word as used indicates to me an acknowledgement by Paul that his affective domain, the realm of his emotional being, is tender and full of mercy toward the Philippians, and that he ascribes this state to Jesus. He is not saying he can't wait to be hugging on them, though if with them most likely would express what he feels in that way.
Further, since (according to Strong) the Hebrews regarded the bowels as the seat of the more tender emotions of kindness and mercy, I was struck by the very limited way I have understood affection. I have defined affection as an act. Paul here uses the word to state the condition of his inner-being.
It causes me to question: When will our devotion to Christ, our abiding in Him become so real to us that we are released within to the freedom and authority of a gut level sense of mercy toward one another within the Body of Christ? When will we abandon ourselves to one another emotionally far beyond the affected, obligatory cultural construct of showing physically something we believe ideally perhaps, but do not fully emotionally embrace because of fear or pride?
We modern Christians live in a world where the headlines about predatory priests are but one of the fearsome depravities with which humanity is afflicted. Have we let the world around us hollow our guts of the tenderness which is Christ's mercy? If there were more affection, more depth of the feeling of it within our God-families, would some who have been of the faith but fallen into depravity been equipped by the emotional sustenance flowing from those with whom she or he walked, such that the lure of lust could not have masqueraded as a desirable end?